The ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu (Kaʻahumanu Society) is named after Queen Kaʻahumanu; it “was established to assist each other member of this Association when they are in need (in sickness, poverty, and death)”. (Constitution, noted in Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke III, Helu 34, Aoao 4. Augate 20, 1864)
It is one of four royal benevolent societies in Hawaiʻi, which include, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu, Hale O Na Aliʻi O Hawaiʻi, and Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors – Māmakakaua.
Its mission statement notes it is “to commemorate important historical figures of Hawaiian heritage. The organization provides its members financial assistance for medical needs, death benefits. And operates a cemetery for its members. The organization also renders assistance to the Lunalilo home.” (GuideStar)
This aspect is reflected in the group’s signature regalia of black holoku, complemented by gold lei hulu, or feather neck lei, to symbolize royalty. (Maui Now) (During her day, Queen Kaʻahumanu adopted the black dress worn by the women missionaries.)
It was first formed at Kawaiahaʻo on August 8, 1864 by Princess Victoria Kamāmalu (granddaughter of King Kamehameha I) and named after her aunt, Queen Kaʻahumanu, for the relief of the elderly and the ill. The club celebrates the life of Queen Kaʻahumanu and the preservation of the monarchy in Hawaiʻi.
“The Princess was distinguished as the founder and Perpetual President of a benevolent association called ‘Aha Hui Kaahumanu’ – an organization partaking of the benevolent character of Freemasonry, but without its secrecy.”
“It was composed of her countrywomen, and supported by their subscriptions; its membership was exceedingly numerous, and its ramifications extended all over the several islands of the group. Its objects were to secure careful nursing of its members when sick, and their decent burial after death.”
“The society always formed in procession and followed deceased members to the grave, arrayed in a uniform composed of a white robe and a scarf, which indicated the official rank of the wearer by its color.” Later Twain notes, “They were dressed in black, and wore sashes of different colors.” (Twain)
After Kamāmalu died in 1866, the ʻAhahui was discontinued, and then revived some forty years later under the leadership of Lady Lucy Kaheiheimālie Peabody on June 14, 1905.
Today, the ʻAhahui celebrates Queen Kaʻahumanu’s birthday with public programs, participate in Aliʻi Sunday church services, march on Kamehameha Day with the Royal Order of Kamehameha, feed the homeless, fund scholarships, and support the Lunalilo Home for elderly Hawaiians on Oʻahu.
It also sponsors programs that promote and preserve the Hawaiian language and culture, while practicing the Hawaiian and Christian values that were embraced by Queen Kaʻahumanu.
Members are women of Native Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian ancestry, from the ages of 18 and older, who are sponsored into the organization by a member in good standing. (Fong; Lindsey)
Kaʻahumanu was born about the year 1768, near Hāna, Maui. Her siblings include Governor John Adams Kuakini of Hawaiʻi Island, Queen Kalākaua Kaheiheimālie (another wife of Kamehameha I) and Governor George Cox Keʻeaumoku II of Maui.
By birth, Kaʻahumanu ranked high among the Hawaiians. Her father was Keʻeaumoku, a distinguished warrior and counselor of Kamehameha the Great. Her mother Namahana was a former wife of the king of Maui, and the daughter of Kekaulike (a great king of that island.)
Kaʻahumanu was one of the most powerful people in the Islands at the time of the arrival of the missionaries. There were those who were higher by birth, and there were those who were higher by title, but there was probably none who held greater influence.
Generally ambivalent through 1824, it is generally accepted that Kamehameha’s widowed Queen, from 1825 until her death in 1832, was one of the staunchest friends of the missionaries and one of the foremost supporters of their cause.
She was described to have a kindly and generous disposition and usually had as pleasant relations with foreigners who respected her royal rights. She was cautious and slow in deciding – more business-like in here decision-making – but once her mind was made up, she never wavered.
She had requested baptism for Keōpūolani and Keʻeaumoku when they were dying, but she waited until April, 1824, before requesting the same for herself.
On December 5, 1825, Kaʻahumanu, six other chiefs, and one commoner were baptized and received holy communion. The widowed queen took the Christian name of Elizabeth, which she added to her official signature.
In December, 1827, laws against murder, stealing and adultery were adopted by the chiefs and proclaimed by Kaʻahumanu, who addressed the people, “demanding their attention to the laws of the land … and to others which were to be taught and explained more fully to the people, before their establishment.” The ceremonies, planned by Kaʻahumanu, included hymns and prayers.
Then, in mid-1832, Kaʻahumanu became ill and was taken to her house in Mānoa, where a bed of maile and leaves of ginger was prepared. “Her strength failed daily. She was gentle as a lamb, and treated her attendants with great tenderness. She would say to her waiting women, ‘Do sit down; you are very tired; I make you weary.’”
Hiram Bingham’s account of her last hours is, in part, as follows: “On the third instant, Sabbath night, about midnight, Dr. Judd sent down to me to say he thought her dying. I hastened to Manoa and remained there until the fifth …”
“About the last words she used of a religious character were two lines of a hymn designed to express the feelings of a self-condemned penitent coining and submitting to Christ: ‘Here, here am I, O Jesus, oh – Grant me a gracious smile.’”
“A little after this she called me to her and as I took her hand, she asked. ‘Is this Bingham?’ I replied. ‘It is I’—She looked upon me & added ‘I am going now’ I replied: ’Ehele pu Jesu me oe, Ehele pomaikai aku.’ ‘May Jesus go with you, go in peace.’ She said no more. Her last conflict was then soon over, – in 10 or 15 minutes she ceased to breathe.”
Her death took place at ten minutes past 3 o’clock on the morning of June 5, 1832, “after an illness of about 3 weeks in which she exhibited her unabated attachment to the Christian teachers and reliance on Christ, her Saviour.”
Kaʻahumanu was buried at Pohukaina at ʻIolani Place and later transferred to Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum in Nuʻuanu Valley.